Tuesday, December 05, 2017

N.D. joins states restricting herbicide dicamba

North Dakota has set new rules for using the herbicide dicamba on soybeans, after increasing reports of crop damage by farmers who aren't using the controversial product. Under the new rules, North Dakota farmers may not use dicamba on certain kinds of soybeans after June 30, or the crop's first bloom phase, whichever comes first. Violations could carry a fine of up to $5,000, Blake Nicholson reports for The Associated Press.

Dicamba is known for its volatility; it can evaporate after being applied and drift onto neighboring farms. It has been used for decades, but was used only before crops sprouted. But since the introduction of cotton and soybeans genetically engineered to resist dicamba, it can be sprayed on crops that are already growing. Recent research from the University of Missouri indicates that about 4 percent of all soybeans planted in the U.S., more than 3.6 million acres, were damaged by dicamba this year, and other crops, gardens, and trees were also damaged.

University of Missouri map; click on the image to enlarge it.

After mounting complaints from farmers, including more than 200 in North Dakota this year, dicamba manufacturers Monsanto, BASF and DuPont made a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency last month to voluntarily require stricter labeling for dicamba products, and also to require more training for applicators and limits to how and when it can be sprayed.

Arkansas has also further restricted dicamba, and Monsanto is suing that state. But Monsanto Vice President of Global Strategy Scott Partridge said that that was a last-resort tactic, and the company wants to focus on urging North Dakota officials to be more flexible on the June 30 cutoff date. "Monsanto also is taking other steps in all states, such as setting up a technical support call center and distributing the proper spray nozzles to applicators free of charge," Nicholson reports.

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